Mans Series 2007
Round 2. Monza 1000 Kilometers. April 13th-15th 2007
final free practice session on Saturday morning (09:55-10.55)
was punctuated by a succession of red flag stoppages, but
RML picked up where they’d ended Friday, with Thomas
Erdos first on track to assess the adjustments made to the
MG in the light of the foreshortened final session the evening
was soon evident that the competition within the LMP2 category
had became even more intense, with the Bruichladdich Radical
overcoming the gearbox problems that had curtailed the team’s
Friday action, and becoming the fifth car to stake a claim
to top honours in the class – alongside RML, Quifel
ASM, Embassy Racing and Barazi Epsilon.
first half-hour was a stop-start affair, with pace no sooner
found than the red flags were waving again for one incident
after another. This prevented Tommy from really getting
to grips with the changes necessary, and after thirty minutes,
he handed the car over to Mike Newton. “Other people
had the same problem,” observed Erdos after returning
to the garage. “We’ve been concentrating on
our set-up for the race tomorrow, and while we appear to
be lacking a little bit of pace for qualifying, I feel we’re
in a good position for a six-hour race. That’s what
really matters, and it’s been encouraging to have
the car running so well and so reliably. The AER engine
feels especially strong, and we’re pretty confident
that we’ll have a good race.”
carried the MG through to the end of the hour-long session,
although this again ended ahead of time after Phil Keen
took the Rollcentre Pescarolo into the tyre wall at the
exit of Parabolica. The final timesheet revealed a best
overall of 1:36.788 from the Charouz Racing Lola LMP1, just
a tenth quicker than the first of the two Peugeot 908s,
and then the works Courage #12 (Cochet) fourth. In LMP2,
quickest was the back-on-form Bruichladdich Radical on 1:41.214,
with the Barazi Zytek second (Vergers on 1:41.315) and the
ASM Lola third. RML’s best from Thomas Erdos was a
one-and-a-half seconds separated the first seven in the
class, but it was very much business as usual in the RML
garage, where Ray Mallock had arrived to oversee proceedings.
“We see this very much as a countdown to Le Mans,”
he explained. “Our ultimate objective has to be to
win Le Mans for a third time, and this is like a dress rehearsal
for that event. This circuit at Monza is the one that most
closely resembles Le Mans, and we’re looking ahead
to that almost as much as we are the race tomorrow. This
is the best opportunity we’re going to get to test
and develop our race set-up before we get to France in June.
We know that the opposition here in the Le Mans Series has
moved on over the winter, but they’re concentrating
on 1000 kilometre races. We’ve elected to focus on
our full twenty-four hour set-up, so we’re still running
all our back-up systems, such as the twin alternator and
starter motor configurations that we perfected last year.”
Such considerations benefit reliability and endurance, but
may not be conducive to outright qualifying pace. “As
far as I’m concerned, this is a dress rehearsal for
Le Mans,” concluded Ray.
on Luc Alphand Fire
official communiqué from the series' organisers,
issued on Saturday 14th April, confirms that four mechanics
were injured in Friday's pitlane fire. Two of these were
released quickly, and have already rejoined their team.
A third remains in hospital in Monza with what are described
as "superficial injuries", and should be discharged
shortly. It is believed that this is the man who was treated
by the RML pit crew immediately following the incident.
fourth mechanic was taken to a specialist burns unit in
Milan suffering from second-degree burns to 35% of his body.
His condition is described as "stable" and "satisfactory"
by the doctors treating him, and it is hoped that he will
be well enough to be moved, perhaps to another hospital
nearer his home in France, within the next few days. We
wish them all a speedy recovery.
for the Monza 1000 kilometres 2007 was delayed by twenty
minutes so that oil spillage from the previous event could
be treated, but that didn’t prevent a queue of cars
lining up at the pit exit for the published time of 13:55.
Others, including RML, were quick to anticipate the revised
start-time, and held their cars back in their garages, maintaining
tyre temperatures and giving their drivers the best chance
at a good time early on.
the lights turned green, Tommy was quick to head down the
pitlane and join the track, and was equally quickly up to
speed. His very first flyer was a 1:41.531,and emphatically
the best the MG had achieved since arriving at Monza. It
moved the #25 neatly into second place in LMP2, just behind
the #43 ASM Lola. His next lap was better still, at 1:40.764,
but Michael Vergers was also on a charge in the Barazi Epsilon
Zytek, slotting in ahead of the MG with a 1:39.961.
at the sharp end, the battle for outright pole had immediately
come down to one of three cars - the Charouz Lola having
the initial advantage, with Stefan Mucke establishing an
early bridgehead on 1:36.187, just ahead of the two Peugeots.
Of these, it was Sarrazin making the early showing. After
waiting quite late to join the session, he came through
on only his third lap to set a new provisional pole time
LMP2, Vergers was improving, and his next was a 1:39.481,
while former RML driver Warren Hughes was showing good form
in the Embassy Radical, setting 1:41.420 to move into fourth,
narrowly behind Erdos. The Brazilian was finding yet more
time from the MG, however, and when he came through with
a 1:40.146, it was good enough to move into second in P2,
just behind Vergers, but ahead of Burgeño, with Moseley
(Bruichladdich Radical) now holding 4th on 1:41.131.
allowed the Charouz Lola some brief glory in LMP1, the two
Peugeots were now starting to show their true colours. After
two days when fastest first and second sectors had been
followed by woefully slow thirds, or even pitstops, the
two black and white coupes were finally starting to string
together entire laps at representative pace. Nicholas Minassian
suddenly leaped ahead, becoming the first to break 1:36
by setting a time of 1:35.678.
had done his best, however. Just as Minassian was giving
his Peugeot a free head, the MG was coming back down the
pitlane to be met by the RML mechanics, who were quick to
hoist the tail-end onto a trolley and wheel the car backwards
into the garage. “I knew I was on it!” he said
later. “That was as good a lap as I felt I could do.
I got the best out of the car. Maybe I could have gone a
bit quicker, but not safely, and not without taking risks.
I was pretty happy, to be honest, but the reality is that
our car is a little slower than the opposition today”
Erdos was climbing out of the MG, Minassian swept by for
his next pass, this time posting a new fastest lap of 1:34.503,
noticeably faster than either 908 had ever gone before.
All was not finished in LMP2 however, even if the MG was
out of the action. Burgeño was next to make an improvement,
knocking Vergers off the top slot with a time of 1:39.789,
and demoting the RML MG to the second row of the LMP2 grid.
A further improvement of almost half a second, followed
by a final flyer of just 1:39.271, appeared to place pole
beyond doubt. Who would claim outright glory, however, remained
in question almost to the very end, with Minassian’s
team-mate Sarrazin closing to within two-tenths of the #7
Peugeot with a new best of 1:34.680, but that was as close
as it got.
flag dropped with Burgeño on LMP2 pole, from Michael
Vergers second, and Thomas Erdos third. Their times; 1:39.271,
1:39.481 and 1:40.146 respectively, made interesting comparison
with the pole time from 2005 – the last time the cars
were at Monza – which stood at 1:41.111, more than
two seconds slower. Tommy’s qualifying time in 2005
had been 1.42.028, 5th in P2. Outright pole that year had
fallen to Tom Chilton in the LMP1 Zytek with a time of 1:37.938,
nearly three and a half seconds slower than today’s
best by Nic Minassian.
the RML garage, there were smiles at last. The previous
two days had been somewhat frustrating for the squad, but
at last their hard work had paid off. It might not have
been the pole they’d grown accustomed to in 2006,when
Erdos had been unbeaten in qualifying, but it was actually
better than some had expected, such has been the level of
improvement demonstrated by several of the other teams,
with new cars and upgraded aerodynamics. “That was
an excellent qualifying session and a great performance
from Tommy,” said Adam Wiseberg. “On our 2006-specification
bodywork, I think it’s true to say that Tommy exceeded
our expectations, as always.” There remains some debate
over the true benefits of the new aero-package from Lola,
and RML is one of a number of teams yet to adopt the revised
bodywork, but there is no doubt that the ASM Lola has found
considerable extra pace since last season. “The Portuguese
car is essentially similar to the MG,” said Erdos,
“but they’ve adopted the newer aerodynamics.
Even so, I’m not convinced that the level of difference
they seem to have achieved today is just down to that. They’ve
obviously found something else over the winter, and it’s
made a significant difference.”
hours later it transpired that the ASM Lola had failed the
post-qualifying scrutineering check, on the basis that the
undertray had moved and thereby reduced the ground-clearance.
Such a change would not have had any great significance
on the car’s performance, but it was sufficient to
ensure that Burgeño’s time would ultimately
be disallowed, and the #40 Lola will begin tomorrow’s
race from the back of the grid.
the RML MG will start the Monza 1000 kms from the front
row of LMP2 after all. “We’ve got a well-balanced
car, ready to race,” said Phil Barker. “It now
remains to see how strong the others are going to be in
photographs on this page supplied by David Lord and Peter
May of Dailysportscar. A brief press release about qualifying
can be viewed here.